Recovery Workshop: Lesson Forty-Eight

Proactive/Reactive Urge Awareness

In this lesson, you will be exposed to the two main areas of developing urge awareness skills: proactive and reactive.

Proactive Skill Development

Put simply, if your intentions are to master the skills necessary to effectively manage urges, you cannot wait for those urges to occur before learning how to manage them. You must be proactive in generating experience in urge management. This means role-playing, this means anticipating, this means actively seeking. Let's briefly explore each of these techniques:


In an ironic twist, this means developing your ability to fantasize. To create a reality that does not actually exists. Except the purpose of these fantasies are to help you ingrain healthy responses to particular stimuli. To use this technique, simply think of a situation that you may face in the future...and mechanically walk yourself through a healthy response to that situation. If you have an action plan developed, use it. If you can think of possible variations on this situations...variations that may put a wrinkle into any existing action plan...manage them. And then adjust your action plan to match the evolved awareness. There is no limit to what you role play/visualize. The key is to make sure that you are envisioning healthy responses to the situation; or, healthy responses to the awareness that you have responded in an unhealthy way. Think about that...understand that...before moving forward. You will want to develop this skill to assist you in combating relapse/slips in the coming month.

The weakness to the role playing technique is that it is nearly impossible to replicate the actual emotions that will be involved should the situation be real. And so, it is more of an academic approach to learning. By itself, not overly effective and potentially dangerous in that it provides you with a false sense of security in regards to your overall preparedness. But in conjunction with other techniques that involve real-world application, this technique will provide you with tremendous value in ingraining automatic, values-based responses.


Another technique in proactively managing urges is your ability to anticipate when those urges may occur. This means that when you start a new job, you anticipate having to redefine your boundaries, you refresh your connection to your values, you role play potential situations that may come up that could trigger an urge to act in a manner that conflicts with your values. This means that upon the realization that you are going out-of-town, you anticipate the triggers that may arise. You prepare for them. This means that, knowing that your family is sleeping and you have unfettered access to the Internet, you anticipate the possibility of an urge arising and you heighten your awareness to that urge.

Actively Seeking

Finally, one of the most powerful techniques in proactive urge control is related to attitude. The attitude that you are seeking is this: each morning when you awake, you immediately connect to those two or three areas of your life that you are actively seeking to develop that day. It may be the same areas as yesterday or it may be completely different. What is important is that you are aware of them. Why? So that you can actively seek out opportunities throughout the day to strengthen these areas.

Consider a husband who passively seeks to 'improve communication' with his wife. When situations arise to work on this communication, he takes advantage of it. Often after being prompted by his wife. If left to passive development, such opportunities may arise once or twice a week. When that same person, across that same time period actively seeks out opportunities to improve his communication skills, literally hundreds of opportunities become available. The times he is watching tv and his wife at the same time. The times when he thinks things and doesn't communicate them. The times when he becomes aware of his feelings and doesn't share them. The times when he impulsively shares his feeling without respect to his partner's boundaries. The times when...the list can go on and on.

The difference between actively seeking out opportunities to develop and sitting back and waiting for those opportunities is the difference between being a 'couch potato' and a world-class athlete. The couch potato will engage in say, a game of tennis and will play to the best of their current ability; the world-class athlete will seek out opportunities to perfect their performance. And while you are not being asked to achieve 'world-class' status as a human being, you are being asked to adopt several strategies for improving your existing skill set.

Make the three techniques described above a mainstay of not only developing your urge control skills, but in mastering action plans as well.

Reactive Skill Development

For reactive urge awareness — what to do when you are forced to react to an urge — there is only one concept you will need to know: reactive action plans. This is a skill that will be developed in much depth in the coming weeks of the workshop.

Lesson 48 Exercise:

1. If you do not know how to role play, learn. Ask about it in the forums, pick up a book on visualization...this is too valuable of a tool to not master. It will provide you with the ability of not only mastering situations now, but in maintaining your proficiency down the road.

2. For each of the next three days, find an opportunity to complete each of the three skills mentioned in this lesson: role-playing/visualization; anticipating; actively seeking opportunity. It doesn't matter what you apply these skills to — even if the behavior is unrelated to sexual addiction.

3. When you feel that you are proficient with how to use each of these skills, say so in your recovery thread.

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